Bullying in the workplace

A common mistake people make, especially at work, is to assume that it’s ‘others’ who are being a bully. And that bullying is an abuse of power by some other people more powerful than I. But this is self deceit. Many bullies don’t realise they are being a bully. It’s like having snot in the middle of your face, you are usually the last person to find out, right?

The same with acting like a bully. Ask yourself, ‘can I think of times when I’ve acted like a bully?’ before you answer rashly, think about this ‘do you like to be right?’ if you are not right, does it upset you? do you like rules? (but only your rules!)’ then it’s quite probable that, at times, you may have acted as a bully to others, even if you didn’t mean to.

Or think about it this way, have you ever taken it out on someone else? and you knew it wasn’t their fault but you had a go at them anyway? and what’s more, did you secretly enjoy it? (even if later you felt guilty about it) I think most of us have. By the way most people do. It’s not that we are bad people, it’s that we all have the potential to try to force our thoughts, actions and will onto someone else. It’s usually a response to our own fears and uncertainties.

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One of the common scenarios we see in workplaces goes like this – someone doesn’t agree with a colleagues’ idea, opinion, or direction. For some reason, they feel it’s personal. They feel hurt, upset, disappointed, or frustrated. Now they start to see their colleague differently. As a evil, bad, some kind of bitch or bastard. A villain. And it’s ok to stop perpetrators, right? Don’t we have a moral obligation to stop them? …and the reasons for judging, labelling and attacking keep coming.

By the way, this is completely normal and to be expected when you have a group of people coming together to work on something. But if the person is not aware of what is going on, it may not be too long before they start to feel they are being bullied or victimised. And in response, they launch an all out attack on the colleague. Does this sound at all familiar? Now who is doing the bullying in this scenario? The wise person will catch themselves in this.

We need to be careful before we react, to make sure that we ourselves have not become a bully in response. This means a certain level of self awareness and self honesty is required. Rather than declare war on bullying, check to make sure you are responding with compassion, kindness, understanding and assertion, not aggression.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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